All the 'surreal' details of Lipscomb's MLB debut

March 31st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The news will always remember was delivered in a way he won’t forget.

Lipscomb had finished batting practice in Rochester, N.Y., when Triple-A Red Wings manager Matthew LeCroy presented an offer in the clubhouse. Whoever’s name LeCroy pulled from a hat would have their own hotel room on the upcoming road trip in Syracuse.

“He drew my name and was like, ‘Hey, you get your own hotel room -- and you’re going to The Show,’” Lipscomb, ranked as the Nationals' No. 16 prospect by MLB Pipeline, recalled.

Almost as quickly as he had been reassigned from a standout Major League camp on Tuesday, Lipscomb, who grew up in Frederick, Md., was set to make to his big league debut for his hometown team.

Veteran third baseman Nick Senzel had been placed on the 10-day injured list after sustaining a fractured right thumb on a ground ball during batting practice on Opening Day at Great American Ball Park. Lipscomb, the 2023 Minor League Gold Glove Award winner at the hot corner, was selected to fill his place.

“You never want one of your players to get hurt, unfortunately that’s what happened,” said manager Dave Martinez. “We get Trey up here; we only missed him for a couple days. I’m excited to watch him play. He had a good spring, I wanted to get him out there right away. Let’s see what he can do.”

Lipscomb, 23, began breaking the news to family, friends and former coaches while his travels were re-routed to Cincinnati. The ticket requests for Saturday reached 26 as his loved ones booked last-minute flights.

“It’s an incredible experience. To have all of us here, to be with him is truly amazing,” said Lipscomb’s mother, Dayna. “I felt like we were just in Tennessee playing college baseball, and now here we are on an MLB field. It’s really surreal. I don’t think it’ll really soak in until the game starts.”

The moment didn’t sink in for Lipscomb until Saturday afternoon, when he walked out from the visitors clubhouse to the dugout for a media session and looked onto the sprawling field.

“I think it’s all starting to kick in right now,” Lipscomb said. “Definitely was like a numb kind of feeling, I didn’t know how to feel. But it feels good, obviously I'm excited to be here.”

Lipscomb was the first position player on the field for the bottom of the first inning, and he handled some early action. In the Reds' third at-bat, he snagged a chopper down the line from Christian Encarnacion-Strand and fired off a one-bounce throw to first baseman Joey Gallo to record the out.

His defense came full circle in the ninth inning, when he steadily recorded the final out of a comeback win, playing through the pressure to handle a ground ball by Tyler Stephenson.

“You want to just get yourself in position to make the play,” Lipscomb said. “A little chopper, I had to come and get it and throw it on the run. Gallo over there picked me, saved me two times.”

Lipscomb’s first Major League hit came in the third inning, with a single off Hunter Greene that deflected off third baseman’s Jeimer Candelario’s glove and landed in left field. One batter later, Lipscomb stole his first big league base.

“I felt good in the box,” Lipscomb said. “I went through my breathing [to] get comfortable in the box. It’s you versus the pitcher, same as if I was in Rochester.”

The Nats plan for Lipscomb to play every day until Martinez “deem[s] he needs a day off.” This could come at any of the infield positions based on matchups and lineups. Lipscomb -- who was named the 2023 Nationals Minor League Defensive Player of the Year -- was going to be tabbed primarily at second in Triple-A, and he will get reps there in the Majors, too.

“He understands what we expect [from being in Spring Training], so I think he’ll handle it very well,” said Martinez.

The support of his family “dropping everything” to attend his debut will stick with Lipscomb. He commemorated his milestone with his jersey, a ball and lineup card. As for a specific moment in the game that resonated with him, it’s a part that he appreciates now from a different perspective.

“When I saw them doing the wave, that was the real shocking thing,” Lipscomb said. “... It was a lot cooler [watching it from the field]. Surreal, for sure. I don’t even know how to put it into words.”